HAMPSTEAD – Several years ago, before all of the players on the Topsail High School football field on Monday afternoon were born, former Ohio State University Coach Woody Hayes said, “There are three things that can happen when you throw the football, and two of them are bad.”
Obviously Hayes was not a proponent of the forward pass but his, “Three yards and a cloud of dust,” offense served him well as the Buckeyes had a plethora of excellent seasons under Hayes.
Monday the football team from Cape Fear Middle School put on an aerial performance that might have changed Hayes’ mind, and the end result from an offense that is – according to several sources – rare on the middle-school level – served up an unbeaten season, and a county championship.
Seventh-grader Tyrease Armstrong showed off an impressive arm for such a young player by completing 6-of-11 passes for 221 yards, accounting for all of the Grizzlies’ points through the air, as Cape Fear captured the Pender County Middle School championship with a convincing 30-14 win over Topsail Middle School on Monday on the Topsail High School gridiron.
Cape Fear finished the season with a 6-0 overall record, and a 2-0 mark in Pender County as they defeated Burgaw Middle School 12-0 earlier in the year. The Grizzlies disposed of Burgaw, South Brunswick, Shallotte, Cedar Grove, Leland and Topsail during their unbeaten trek through a six-game season.
Topsail finished the year with a 2-4 record, beating Cedar Grove and South Brunswick, and losing to Whiteville, Burgaw, Leland, and Cape Fear.
“This is my third year here and we didn’t have a whole lot of success the first two but I think there is a new wave of kids coming through here,” Cape Fear’s energetic young Coach William Bell said. “These kids did a great job all year and no one can ever take away from them the fact they are the 2012 Pender County Middle School champions.”
In Bell’s first two years the Grizzlies won one combined game. The win last year (2011) ended a three-year winless streak. Cape Fear, which has been open 12 years, last went unbeaten in 2005, but it’s been a downhill spiral since then – until this season.
There was definitely a contrast in styles displayed on the field on Monday, with the Grizzlies dominating through the air, and the young Pirates showing off a solid ground game.
In comparison, Cape Fear had 221 yards through the air and just 25 yards running the football while Topsail garnered 221 yards on the ground –led by the hard-running Aaron Beach with 97 yards – and zero yards in the air. The Pirates’ only pass attempt resulted in an interception.
Cape Fear kicked off to start the game and the defense produced a four-and-out. A short Pirates’ punt gave the Grizzlies possession on the Topsail 35-yard line, and it took them just four plays to capitalize on the short kick.
Speedy eighth-grader Steven Jordan gained 21 yards on the first play but two losses on running attempts sandwiched around a four-yard gain, left the Grizzlies with a fourth down at the Pirates’ 10-yard line. That’s when Armstrong found Tyler Smith behind a Topsail defender for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 3:02 remaining in the first eight-minute quarter. A running play for the two-point conversion failed, leaving the Grizzlies with a 6-0 lead.
That advantage increased to 14-0 with 3:40 remaining before intermission after the Cape Fear defense stymied a Topsail drive four yards from the end zone. A running play lost three yards, backing the Grizzlies to the one.
But Jordan got behind a Topsail defender and Armstrong lofted a near-perfect pass that dropped into his receiver’s arms around the 35-yard line and it was off to the races as Jordan completed a 99-yard scoring play. A pass from Armstrong to Nic Richardson accounted for the two-point conversion.
It looked like the Grizzlies were going to completely run away with the game when Armstrong found Zenas Ward for a 75-yard touchdown pass on Cape Fear’s first possession of the second half. Armstrong then found Jordan in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion, and a 22-0 lead just 30 seconds into the second half.
Topsail fought back to close to within 14 with an eight-play, 54-yard drive, all on the ground, with Alex Holland capping the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run and Beach bursting in for the two-point conversion.
Topsail was driving again on its next possession but an interception by Cape Fear’s Ward stopped the drive. Ward returned the pick to Cape Fear’s 48-yard line, and five plays later – along with two encroachment penalties against Topsail – Armstrong hit Richardson for a 31-yard touchdown, following that up with a two-point conversion pass to Ward.
“The defensive line of Topsail stepped up and stopped our running game, and we had to throw,” Bell said. “We have a good quarterback with a strong arm and he put it on the money tonight. And give credit to the offensive line that gave him some time and gave the receivers a chance to get behind their defenders.”
With time running down, the Pirates tried to get back into the game. A 56-yard drive that encompassed just three plays ended with a 41-yard scoring run by Parker Davis – the son of Topsail High School Coach Bryan Davis. The strong Beach ran it in for the two-point conversion but it was too-little, too-late with just 19.2 seconds left on the game clock.
“We preached all year to the kids to buy into the system and believe, and now they are the unbeaten county champions,” Bell said. “I am so proud of these kids and I appreciate what they did – all of them – all year long.”
Cape Fear 6-8-8-8=30
Cape Fear – Tyler Smith 10 pass from Tyrease Armstrong (Run failed), 3:02
Cape Fear – Steven Jordan 99 pass from Tyrease Armstrong (Nic Richardson pass
from Tyrease Armstrong), 3:40
Cape Fear – Zenas Ward 75 pass from Tyrease Armstrong (Steven Jordan pass from
Tyrease Armstrong), 7:30
Topsail - Alex Holland 9 run (Aaron Beach run), 3:07
Cape Fear – Nic Richardson 31 pass from Tyrease Armsrong (Zenas Ward pass from
Tyrease Armstrong), 1:45
Topsail – Parker Davis 41 run (Run failed), 0:19.2
Team Statistics: Cape Fear Topsail
First downs 6 9
Rushing 10-25 36-221
Passing 6-11-221 0-1-1
Penalties 1-10 6-55
Fumbles/Lost 0/0 1/0
Punts 1-18-18.0 1-10-10.0
Individual Statistics: Rushing – Cape Fear: Steven Jordan 6-19, Joseph Chung 3-16, Nic Richardson 1-minus-10. Topsail: Aaron Beach 15-97, Parker Davis 1-41, Trey Ayers 4-15, Dillon Pinkston 9-30, Chris Nixon 2-5, Alex Holland 5-33. Passing – Cape Fear: Tyrease Armstrong 6-11-221. Topsail: Alex Holland 0-1-0. Receiving – Cape Fear: Zenas Ward 2-78, Nic Richardson 2-34, Steven Jordan 1-99, Tyler Smith 1-10. Defense – Cape Fear: Steven Jordan 9 tackles, Zenas Ward 5 tackles, interception, Tyler Smith 2 tackles, 2 sacks (minus-13 yards), Joseph Chung 4 tackles, L. J. Ballard 2 tackles, Matthew Cather 2 tackles, Tyrease Armstrong 2 tackles, Hunter Westbury 2 tackles, Kyle Hancock 12 tackles. Topsail: Hank Jacobs 3 tackles, Chris Nixon 2 tackles, D. J. Frazier 2 tackles, Dilon Pinkston 1 tackle, 1 sack (minus-10 yards).